Aristotle's Ideal State

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In this essay I will examine Aristotle’s ideal state in order to find out whether it is rather a place of hierarchy than equality. First it is necessary to define what is meant by hierarchy and equality. This seems to be an easy task, since these are commonly used words. But by equality, do we mean for example equal property, equal power or equal rights for everyone? For 21st century Sweden, for example, is usually thought to be rather equal state, while it is however true that even there everyone doesn’t have equal property, equal power or even equal rights. And would equal property for everyone even be equality, since then those who work harder would get the same benefits than those who work less and therefore there would be unfair inequality in amount of work to been done. With these considerations in mind, my definition of equality is that everyone gets what they deserve. Therefore, if a person for example kills another person, he or she clearly doesn’t deserve the same rights or property than everyone else. By my definition a state doesn’t become hierarchical or unequal if it simply punishes criminals. Now the question is that what people deserve and on which grounds and whether in Aristotle’s ideal state people get what they deserve. First I open up his ideas about the inequalities between a man and a woman, and a free man and a slave. Then I proceed to take a closer look at his ideal state by his own definition, which excludes women and slaves from the state. It will become clear that even though Aristotle champions equality to some extent, all things considered his ideal state is in fact rather a place of hierarchy. Aristotle argues that from birth some are superior to others. He says: ’That one should command and anot... ... middle of paper ... ...e more power. He even goes as far as to say that one extremely, and only extremely, superior man in virtue should rule as a permanent king and everyone else should obey him. (1284a3, 1284b22) When there is no one that is such a superior man, equals should have equal power. However, Aristotle says: ”Those who contribute most to this kind of association are… entitled to a larger share in the state than those who, though they may be equal or even superior in free birth and in family, are inferior in the virtue that belongs to a citizen. Similarly they are entitled to a larger share than those who are superior in riches but inferior in virtue.” (1281a2) In any case the people should have at least ‘the power to elect officials and to require a scrutiny (for if they did not have supreme power over even this, the people would be no better than slaves or foes)’. (1274a11)
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